Drew McLachlan
The Navigator

Vocalist/guitarist Liam Glaim has been performing in Nanaimo and across western Canada for almost a decade. When his longtime group The Perfect Trend broke up last year, he got together with the former members of Dead Eyes Open to form a new hardcore band, Trace the Sky. I recently got the chance to speak to Liam about starting from scratch; and the past, present, and future of Nanaimo’s music scene.

The Navigator: How did you first get into making music?

Liam Glaim: The first time I ever made music aside from in class was near the end of high school. I joined this group with my friend Ollie, who is now in No Operator. It was a metal band, and I actually played drums at the time. That was the first time I really started to play and write music with other people.

N: How would you describe Nanaimo’s music scene? How has it changed since you first became involved?

LG: I think there’s an abundance of musical talent here. I have tons of friends who are in awesome bands—Nanaimo’s always been awesome in that way. The thing that’s really changed, and it’s gotten worse and worse over time, is the lack of venues and promoters. There used to be tons of different bars you could play at, and now if you want to play at show it’s either The Cambie or The Queens. In terms of all-ages shows, every hall is either really expensive, or they won’t even rent out for a show. Because of that, there’s few promoters anywhere in Nanaimo. When I started, there were tons of promoters and tons of shows—there was one nearly every weekend.

N: So how can the scene be improved?

LG: Well, I can understand that it’s hard to get kids into a scene when there aren’t any shows to offer, so the first thing I can say is to find a promoter who is willing to put on a couple shows and actually promote them—not just on Facebook and the internet—but actually handbill and put in the work, like Evan Nixon [founder of now-defunct Candlefish Productions] used to do. He worked his butt off and created a scene here. Tyson Cook [founder of Demon Ark Productions] put a ton of work into promoting the Van-Isle Throwdown, and it turned out really well. Unless you’re a musician, you might not realize there is a ton of musical talent in Nanaimo. The genres span too. It’s not just rock and roll or metal. There are tons of really good indie bands, and some really good punk bands. I liked how open-minded people were back in the day, too. You’d have a ton of mixed bills and new bands coming and people trying them out.

N: You’ve been in quite a few bands, so what have you learned from previous projects, and how has that influenced Trace the Sky?

LG: The thing I’ve gotten better at over the years, and this is from experience with different producers over the years when The Perfect Trend recorded a couple albums, is song writing. I love song writing, and I think t h a t c o m – p a r e d to when I first s t a r t e d in a band, I have a much better grasp of writing. For instance, I’ve realized that a slow idea is better, and I focus on transitions a lot more. When I first started with TPT, and we would have seven minute songs, we would never edit them. Now I’ve learned to edit parts out, because nobody wants to hear filler. It’s purposeful now.

N: You’re funding your new album through Indiegogo; what inspired you to try crowdfunding?

LG: I was actually hugely against crowdfunding when I first heard about it. I was amongst my friends who were saying “we’ve made albums before; you just use money from shows or merch and pay the rest yourself.” But I’ve realized what I’m actually against and what I think is a really good idea. What I’m against is bands who just ask people for money without offering anything in return. The rest of my band presented the idea to me and showed me Protest the Hero’s campaign and some other bands who were crowdfunding, and they all worked hard on these campaigns. They offer anybody who pre-orders or donates a ton of good things in return, so it’s not like people are just giving money to a band— they’re essentially just purchasing the album before it’s recorded. I think people are catching on with this campaign, because it’s been pretty good so far.

N: So, specifically, what are you doing to encourage people to donate money?

LG: We made a video that explains where all of our money is going from this campaign, and it explains every single package that we offer, which ranges from just a five dollar digital download to a $500 package that includes us cleaning their house and playing a show in our underwear.

N: With that in mind, how has the rise of social media affected how you promote shows and communicate with your fans?

LG: I think any band would tell you that social media now dominates promotion of shows and anything band related. When I first started playing with The Perfect Trend, I remember there was MySpace, but even then people weren’t using it much. Back then, everything was built on word of mouth, but now, and especially since we’re doing a ton of shows outside of Nanaimo, social media is huge for us. We can get a much better grasp of what type of reaction or response the crowd is giving.

N: Do you think the music industry going increasingly digital has helped smaller bands?

LG: It’s a double-edged sword. It’s positive in the sense that it’s really easy for people to get your music now, which is awesome if you’re a smaller band and just want to raise awareness with digital downloads and streaming. The downside is now it’s way harder to get people to pay anything to listen to your music. We recorded two songs from our six-song EP at the beginning of the year, and we allowed people to go to our Bandcamp to download them for free just so we could raise awareness, because it’s especially hard for a new band to convince people to pay for your music. I think once you adjust your mindset and how you market yourself, then it can become a positive thing.

N: Has hard-core become more popular in the past few years, or are you seeing largely the same groups of people at shows?

LG: It’s weird, because a lot of the independent scenes go through musical trends. When I first started playing music, emo was huge, and now it’s completely dead. Indie is really big now and then hardcore, and then pop-punk. Those are the three big things I see—not just on the island, but when we tour, and when I look at what my friends are doing around the country. I’ve definitely seen a huge increase in hardcore, even just in mainstream music. I don’t think you’d have any bands that scream or did breakdowns on the radio without hardcore.

N: Do you have any thoughts on the new law which doubles fees for venues who are hosting musicians from outside of Canada?

LG: I think it’s a bit absurd, because when you’re looking at headliners who come through, a lot of them are obviously going to be from the States or Europe. Because of the domination of Livenation, a lot of mid-range venues have closed down, so now there are only bars and stadiums left, so smaller venues are becoming more crucial for foreign bands. With these new fees, I just see it as affecting the amount of tours and the amount of artists coming to Canada, and that in turn will affect business at smaller venues who probably aren’t doing it for money. With that loss of revenue, a lot of these venues will start suffering and have to think about closing down.

N: As an artist working in B.C., what do you think of the lack of arts funding in our province? Do you think there’s a lack of opportunity for musicians of niche genres?

LG: Yeah, I think there’s a lack of funding for arts in general in Canada, moreso with things like factor grants and them cutting back on helping artists in the last little bit. There’s another thing that’s really changed since I started, and that’s the support that Canadian artists got—not just funding, but with getting on the radio. There used to be a lot of push from Camcom to get Canadian artists, like Matthew Good or Billy Talent, who are starting out on the radio, whereas now I’m noticing a lot less of that. It’s a lot harder with the way radio is nowadays—they don’t add a lot of new songs; they’re trying to play it safe right now, because radio is another medium that’s kind of fallen by the wayside recently. It’s something that I hope won’t get worse, because the arts, although the government may not realize, is something that needs to be focused on more.

N: Are there any local bands you think people should watch out for?

LG: My favourite Nanaimo band, and one I think people are starting to take notice of, is The Body Politic. They don’t just appeal to people who like metal or technical music, but they appeal to people who like things with melody and pop hooks. They’re really personable and have a great live show, and I definitely think they’re going somewhere. There’s also a band called No Operator, and Lawn Social, who are friends of ours. I’d really like to see people get into them.

N: Is there anything else you’d like to tell the kids at home?

LG: Just keep aware of any music in Nanaimo, just because there aren’t a lot of shows going on right now. I remember how influential they were when I was younger and how it really affected me. I’d like to see that continue now, though that is really hard with so few shows and a lack of support. There are a ton of good bands here, so if there is a show here, try to support it.